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Danielle Taylor: Defying Expectations and Encouraging Others to Do the Same

Danielle Taylor: Defying Expectations and Encouraging Others to Do the Same

Hi friends, it’s Spiffy, back again on Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making the world a more equitable place! Today I’m excited to cruise around Washington DC to talk to Danielle Taylor, the executive director of the Girls Gotta Run Foundation, an organization that is working to improve the health, education, and equality of women and girls. 

Spiffy: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, Danielle. Can you tell me what challenges you’re addressing? 

Danielle: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! The Girls Gotta Run Foundation uses sports to promote girls' right to education in Ethiopia.

Spiffy: Wow! Tell me more! What motivated you to join this work? 

Danielle: I grew up in the American south where I was often denied opportunities and protections simply because I was a black girl. People assumed I only had one path in life, which did not include college or professional success. I came to defy those expectations and I wanted to ensure that every black girl had the support she needed to design the future of her choosing. This is why I have spent my career ensuring that every person, especially vulnerable children, live dignified lives where they are able to live to their fullest potential without the pain, discrimination, and oppression of sexist and/or racist beliefs and behaviors.

Spiffy: It sounds like you know what it takes to overcome obstacles, Danielle! Can you tell me how you are helping to make the world more equitable?

Danielle: Girls Gotta Run invests in female change makers. We do this by providing girls in Ethiopia with full academic scholarships, life skills training with a female mentor, and entrepreneurial coaching to the mothers of the girls in our program.

A Girls Gotta Run athletic scholar. (Photo courtesy of Collin Hughes)

Spiffy: What about a recent milestone you’ve achieved? What impact do you hope to achieve?

Danielle: The international development industry has long suffered from a lack of leadership that reflects the gendered and racial diversity of the individuals and communities it seeks to serve. Girls Gotta Run has launched the Young Professionals Program for college students and recent graduates to challenge this industry norm by providing the training, exposure, and experience that minority women need to succeed as non-profit leaders. Participants of this program will gain the professional experience and network they need to build successful careers.

Spiffy: Can you tell me about a time when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from failure? 

Danielle: Every step of my journey to becoming a social entrepreneur has been challenging – but I wouldn’t change a thing because I have learned so many valuable life lessons. My struggles started with being a young black woman in an industry that was led by much older white men. Ageism, racism, and sexism regularly colored my early experiences and made me question if I had what it took to succeed. I had to learn these systems of oppression and develop creative ways of surviving them without giving up on my core values. I also struggled to find my voice and use it to effectively advocate for myself and others. I've learned that challenges and failures are opportunities to learn and grow stronger in pursuing and achieving social justice.

Spiffy: And I’ve learned from you that we can use our own experiences to better the lives of others. Thank you for sharing about your work and your experience with us, Danielle. It’s been an honor!


Danielle Taylor specializes in the grassroots pursuit of human rights and the empowerment of women and girls in Sub-Saharan Africa. Before joining Girls Gotta Run Foundation as the executive director, Danielle worked with respected international aid organizations to advance the human rights of women and girls globally. Most recently, she founded and led Òman Baako, a non-profit organization that works to build stronger, more equitable communities across Africa and the African diaspora. (Nominated by Silicon Valley Exercise Analytics (SVEXA))

© 2020 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s stories of founders building a more equitable world at www.ladderworks.co/blogs/spiffys-blog